Some things of note from 'As We May Think':
Bush thinks through the fax, the Xerox, the Internet, complex code, touch screens and iPads, digital and 3D imaging and on and on. This is amazing and it underscores what Dr. Kristina Woolsey from The Exploratorium said when she came here to ITP to speak late October, (to paraphrase): "If you were to ask a fish what she thinks of water she might say "What is water?" We take it for granted and its labored, archaic diction is almost endearing if it weren't ironic how recently this was actually.
As a flash of friendly light before the fire, it is worth quoting Vannevar Bush in his idealistic summary:
"There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected."
This is a beautiful dream and it encapsulates much of what Idealistic Temporary Palace is about for many of us. It is what generative art and data mining is possibly about.
However, the doc triptych All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace says what many of us feel: machines and the logic we have made them to make gives us a false sense of control, a false feeling of omniscience. It's what got us here in the larger sense. Of course it's the way our evolution as a species— building on our language— which is the separation of immediate perception from the wholeness of the mind-body and the Now— has turned out in this iteration: the only iteration in the time-space continuum we inhabit. Language and other ensuing technologies seems to be simply the holding on to memory and manipulating it to create a picture which can only ever be false. And the larger picture, which holds so much promise today and then for Bush, is corroded. It's a 'dry photography' sensor exposed to condensation - it's about to stop functioning all together.
And our smaller picture is connected in a 'trail' to the bigger picture, because here at Idealistic Temporary Palace we get to exist in the profession of delighted trailblazers because we are descended in one way or another from those who have brashly used up those resources, cultivated in us a special privilege or consideration of health and intellect and access. We get to be truth-seekers and beauty-finders because we are at the top (granted this glosses over personal hardships but does not exclude some consideration for them.) Every tool we use to make joy or money is costing us, maiming someone, something. It's important to keep this in mind so that we make real hay while the world's candle burns brightly at both ends. That's to say perhaps together we can pull a Baron Munchausen and end that which we started— because we need to Quixotically believe, as he (in)famously did, that we are the only ones who ever possibly could; with our minds and not the minds of the machines we trust. Their calculations are only perfect within the parameters that we give them and those are always narrow compared to the wide truth of reality. And so the poor machines will only ever always be making miscalculations. The Singularity will only come if we if we allow it to, if we buy some time and in making sense of things without relying on our helpless tech.